Seeing my 10 year-old strep throat stricken niece at Thanksgiving a few days ago reminded me of my own yearly confrontation with the virus from grade school through early high school. I believe my body (the spiritual whole) has always had a bit of whimsy when it comes to what sorts of afflictions might be entertaining and when these might be applied.
As for the strep throat, it was nearly every year right about the time of this writing through the first week or so of December. It’s almost as if it were not a random infection but a tradition as regular as a birthday or the 4th of July. That’s why I am convinced that my body was running a self-inflicted routine, having nothing to do with my will to stay healthy or my distaste for penicillin.
It always began with the customary complaint that my throat felt like ‘paper’, whatever that description meant, and followed with a fever, the mandatory trip to the pediatrician and the inevitable shot in the ass. Why the penicillin had to be fired into my butt cheek I never quite understood, since the infection resided in the opposite direction, but it always was and for the next day or so I had to lean on my good side to avoid the discomfort. My mother was quick to get me that shot because she was wary of rheumatic fever, that which strep morphs into if left untreated.
Now I’ve always thought that I was an innocent bystander in all of this because why would I wish this sort of nonsense upon myself and have to go through that nasty shot and have to be absent from scho…
Ah, and there it was; the clear answer to this disease’s amazing regularity. Clearly, upon reflection, I wasn’t giving myself enough credit for ingenuity because I deserved the Junior Nobel Prize for inventing, long before it was an established convention in academia, the ‘Christmas break’. This is the increased time off surrounding the actual Christmas holiday currently instituted in most schools and colleges around the country. Back during my school days time off for much beyond the observed holidays was rare indeed. I was operating during a historical period in this country where education was valued more than vacation. Imagine such a crazy and responsible philosophy and why my plan was so deviantly brilliant even though it appears the work of an idiot savant.
Most of the kids were getting time off. I was getting time and a half.
All I had to do was get strep each year right before Christmas and I had extra vacation time. Of course, I couldn’t go outside and play and there was still the ass shot but the other perks were undeniably attractive: day-long cartoons, Etch-a-Sketch marathons, Silly Putty stuck to the blanket, a snooze here and there, and meals delivered to my door. It was like relaxing in Cancun, except without the sun, surf and fresh air.
But how does one get strep-throat on demand? It’s a frigging virus! My subconscious must have been so dialed in to this scheme that it knew how to put itself in harms way and at the proper time to boot. That’s one high strepping, health taunting, school skipping booyah, my friend. To nail this thing year after year at approximately the same time is an impressive feat of viral control that even Jonas Salk would be proud of.
I wish I could have given myself credit at the time it was happening but I hadn’t a clue as to what I was pulling off. I was just a dopey kid with a magic virus and a sore butt. So, you’re wondering, other than the near perfect yearly strep acquisition, how did I deduce that I was steering the good ship Streptococcal Pharyngitis?
Quite elementary, my dear Watson. My mother, tired of the ritual passion play, decided to take a wild swing for the fences and announced that if I got strep throat again I was going to be punished. Now this was certainly an odd approach to a child’s malady but damn if it didn’t work…either that or I just outgrew the thing, but I never got strep again as a child.
Now you can toss certain facts around, like strep is the cause of 37% of sore throats among children and cases usually occur in late winter and early spring, but what’s the likelihood of a kid being able to pinpoint their annual demise right before Christmas and resolving the issue just before the actual holiday arrives so as to avoid being sick on December 25th?
Pure ‘Christmas Break’ genius, my readers, pure genius.